Ethical question on games

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Richard Borton

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Jul 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/15/96
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This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
for a game to:
1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
interprutation.

2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
handy and useful in a game?

Just curious about the thoughts on these matters.

Regards,
Rick (Lurking while Learning) Borton


Matthew T. Russotto

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Jul 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/15/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>,

Richard Borton <Wetw...@gnn.com> wrote:
}This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
}for a game to:
}1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
}"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
}interprutation.

Baseball (Zork II) is out. Ancient Egypt (Curses) is in.

}2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
}a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
}handy and useful in a game?

Go ahead, teach 'em how to make a bomb. MacGuyver did

> GET BOTTLE
Taken.

> OPEN BOTTLE
Opened.

> PUT DRANO IN BOTTLE
The bottle now has a small amount of Drano in it.

> PUT FOIL IN BOTTLE
The squares of aluminum foil are now in the bottle.

> PUT WATER IN BOTTLE
You fill the bottle about 1/4 of the way up with water.

> CLOSE BOTTLE
The cap is now back on the bottle.

> WAIT
The bottle fizzes.

> WAIT
The bottle explodes in your hand, sending glass through your tendons
and through your eyes. Your now-useless left hand drops the remains.

******* YOU ARE A TOTAL MORON *********

Do you wish to Restart, Restore, Undo, or Quit?
> SUE MACGYVER
That's not an option.


Seriously, a common way to handle this is to deliberately get
something critical wrong. For instance, Tom Clancy deliberately
messed up the procedure for separating T2O from D2O and H2O, as well
as a few other things when he described how to make a nuclear bomb in
_Sum of All Fears_. This would work in a game except for one thing
-- the delinquent playing it might know how to make a pipe bomb, and
the error would confuse and detract such players. My 2 cents: Just
do it right. Better to spread dangerous information than
misinformation.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com russ...@his.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Dan Shiovitz

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>,
Richard Borton <Wetw...@gnn.com> wrote:
>This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
>for a game to:
>1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
>"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
>interprutation.

IMO, it's usually a bad idea. It's tolerable if it's very clear what it
is you'd need to look up (who is the twelfth president of the united
states?), but even that isn't so hot. And, of course, there's always
the risk of the baseball-diamond sort of puzzle.

>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>handy and useful in a game?

I dunno. If you just found out how to do the thing by going to the
library and grabbing a book on it, I hardly see that you're going
to corrupt the minors. Far more serious a matter is probably encouraging
the in-game character to blow someone up with the bomb.

>Rick (Lurking while Learning) Borton

--
dan shiovitz scy...@u.washington.edu sh...@cs.washington.edu
slightly lost author/programmer in a world of more creative or more sensible
people ... remember to speak up for freedom because no one else will do it
for you: use it or lose it ... carpe diem -- be proactive.
my web site: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html some ok stuff.


Ben Chalmers

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>
Wetw...@gnn.com (Richard Borton) wrote:

> This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> for a game to:
> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> interprutation.

Depends what you want people to know. Assuming the game is distributed
worldwide, culture specific knowledge shouldn't be needed (I wouldn't like to
be asked about specifics of baseball, just as I wouldn't expect all American
players to know where Silly Mid On stands on a cricket pitch). That said,
theres always the option of providing a glossary feature with all the
information needed provided (and maybe hidden) within.

>
> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
> a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
> handy and useful in a game?

It wouldn't worry me too much, but be careful. Also remember many conutries
may have restrictions on the import of such information so distribution may
be affected.


--
Name :Ben Chalmers.
Email:b...@bench.demon.co.uk
csap PROTO-FAQ: csa...@bench.demon.co.uk

John Switzer

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>,

Richard Borton <Wetw...@gnn.com> wrote:
>This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
>for a game to:
>1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
>"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
>interprutation.

To me, the ideal adventure game is something I should be able to figure
out with "common" knowledge - any other knowledge should be either put in
the docs or referred to somehow (such as an in-game encyclopedia, etc.).
As to how "common" is defined, boy that's a good one - I would think you
would have to define that for yourself when coming up with your target
audience.

>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>handy and useful in a game?

Well, if you give real instructions in your game and some twit uses
them to build a real bomb and blows himself or someone else up, you can
bet you'll at best get sued and at worse get arrested. Thus, I'd suggest
using the "MacGyver approach" - give them some of the real things, but
hide the essential stuff. For example, instead of explaining what common
household chemicals to mix, make up some brand names and leave some
instructions around somewhere on how to mix them (for ex: in the margins of
Joseph Conrad's "Secret Agent" you could have something like "mix two parts
of Breene's all-purpose cleanser with one part Jake's Scrubso").
--
John Switzer | Ever wonder what would happen if the Mafia set
| up a newsgroup and some moron spammed it?
jswi...@limbaugh.com | Sigh . . . I can always dream.
*** Access the Congressional Record at http://thomas.loc.gov ***

Kvan

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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On Mon, 15 Jul 1996, Richard Borton wrote:

> This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> for a game to:
> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> interprutation.

If it isn't too hard to look up somewhere, I guess. Of course, you ALWAYS
have to draw the line somewhere. I think it's worth trying to keep a game
accessible for as wide a range of persons as possible.

> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
> a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
> handy and useful in a game?

This is the same question as whether or not we should ban the 'Terrorist's
Handbook' etc.

My personal opinion is that the information being there is not a problem.
It's accessible anyway (through chemistry books, e.g., or even common
knowledge). Then it's people's own job (or possibly society's, but that's
a different story) to use (or not use, as the case were) that information
responsibly.

Those are my views, anyway.

'gards,
Kvan.

_ _ _ _ __ _ _ | I think TWINKLE's a nice word. So's
( )/ )( \/ )/__\ ( \( ) | VIRIDIAN. I met a lady once who had
) ( \ //(__)\ ) ( @diku.dk | an imaginary FISH.
(_)\_) \/(__)(__)(_)\_) | Delirium.

*******************************************
* Visit http://www.diku.dk/students/kvan/ *
*******************************************


Christopher E. Forman

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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Richard Borton <Wetw...@gnn.com> wrote:
: 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know

: "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
: interprutation.

A judgment call, really. If possible, you might want to include a reference
somewhere in the game, just in case.

: 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop


: a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
: handy and useful in a game?

Damn, you swiped my idea for a future project! B-)

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read XYZZYnews at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html
Vote I-F in 1996! Visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~jojo/pcgames.html for info!
Ask me about my list of Infocom products for sale or trade!

Adam J. Thornton

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>,

Richard Borton <Wetw...@gnn.com> wrote:
>This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
>for a game to:
>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>handy and useful in a game?


UNABOMBER

An Interactive Catharsis

Release 1 S/N 050798

Math. Computers. Technocratic tools of the power-mad control freaks bent
on destroying our lives through surveillance and...wait...what *are* you
doing playing a computer game?

***You have blown yourself up***

QUIT, QUIT, QUIT, or MOVE TO MONTANA ? >

Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

Russell L. Bryan

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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Richard Borton wrote:

> This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> for a game to:

> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> interprutation.

That's a little vague, but you have to assume a certain level of
education and intelligence on the part of the player. If there is a
question as to whether or not most people would understand a certain
term or event, use footnote features to clear up any possible ambiguity,
particularly with Americanisms which someone in Europe wouldn't be
familir with. Just don't be condescending -- I give most of the
interactive audience high marks for intelligence.

> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
> a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
> handy and useful in a game?

I wouldn't get too detailed with it. Everyone probably knows that to
build a nuclear bomb you need some uranium, a detonator, some wires, and
a case. You don't have to tell someone where to buy the stuff, or worry
too much about precise chemical composition. Hell, MacGuyver used to
build pipe bombs out of a pack of condoms and a firecracker and no one
really complained.

-- Russ

Ross Nicoll

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Jul 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/16/96
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Only last week, I was talking to Elvis and Richard Borton about Ethical
question on games

> This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> for a game to:
> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> interprutation.

Personally, I don't think so.

> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
> a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
> handy and useful in a game?

Hmmmm, how about just having a technically incorrect bomb?
_ __ __ __
/_) / / (_ (__
/\ /_/ __) /
______________/


Kees Wiebering

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Jul 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/17/96
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Hi Richard,

In a message to All, you asked:

RB> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge?

IMO there are three related aspects of telling some story.
First, there is ofcourse the question of _what_ the subject really is. This
seems very straightforward, but it is not that simple. It is related to the
other two aspects.
The second one is the _way_ you want to tell something. In this newsgroup
everyone seems to have chosen the IF-way. But that still leaves some questions
on style, which is also related to the third aspect.
The third aspect to consider is your _audience_. This is what your question is
about. Who do you want to tell your story to? In non-IF no author writes for
everyone, and not everyone likes every book. So the author makes a selection.
Although the IF-audience isn't very large, I think you still have to choose
and select your audience, asking what kind of people you want to tell a story
to. SF-lovers, Hardy Boys fans, or maybe people who know everything on the
voyage of Odyseus. This selection is your own and give some constraints on how
to tell your story. Not only in choosing a style, but also in its contents.
So basically, you have to answer you question yourself :).

RB> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop a
RB> destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb handy and
RB> useful in a game?

I really wouldn't know. I have never checked the way bombs and such are made
in the stories I've read. I myself would never write something dangerous that
was exactly true: like a semtex-bomb or an recipe for XTC. IMO the way it is
described should work in the story, even if it might never work on second
thoughts. In this respect I've always liked the James Bond kind of technology:
most of the times purely nonsens, but for the story it works.

Bye, Kees.

Cthulhu

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Jul 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/17/96
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In article <4set0t$j...@news-e2b.gnn.com>, Wetw...@gnn.com (Richard Borton) wrote:
>This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
>for a game to:
>1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
>"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
>interprutation.

Sounds okay to me. Too bad I'm stupid and I don't know what you're talking
about. :)

>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop

>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>handy and useful in a game?
>
>Just curious about the thoughts on these matters.

Remember that Ditch Day Drifter required the player to make an explosive
device that, if he were stupid enough to try it at home, would explode and
kill him instantly. Nobody complained.

Jesse McGrew

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Jul 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/18/96
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Ross Nicoll (rni...@lostics.thenet.co.uk) wrote:
: > Remember that Ditch Day Drifter required the player to make an explosive

: > device that, if he were stupid enough to try it at home, would explode
: > and kill him instantly. Nobody complained.
: What was it, nitro glycerine?

Liquid nitrogen in a closed container, I think.

--
Jesse "Monolith" McGrew
http://www.concentric.net/~jmcgrew
Free novel ---> http://www.truthmachine.com

Ross Nicoll

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Jul 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/18/96
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When on Wed, 17 Jul 96 20:34:55 GMT, Cthulhu crashed on the information
superhighway, causing a 23
mile pile-up, they were charged with Re: Ethical question on games.

>>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
>>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>>handy and useful in a game?

> Remember that Ditch Day Drifter required the player to make an explosive
> device that, if he were stupid enough to try it at home, would explode
> and kill him instantly. Nobody complained.
What was it, nitro glycerine?

Ben Chalmers

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Jul 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/19/96
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In article <fba_960...@saluton.iaf.nl>
wieb...@saluton.iaf.nl (Kees Wiebering) wrote:


> Although the IF-audience isn't very large, I think you still have to choose
> and select your audience, asking what kind of people you want to tell a story
> to. SF-lovers, Hardy Boys fans, or maybe people who know everything on the
> voyage of Odyseus. This selection is your own and give some constraints on how
> to tell your story. Not only in choosing a style, but also in its contents.
> So basically, you have to answer you question yourself :).

That said, I suppose I should quot Azimov on writing science fiction

"You can talk of space and galaxies and tesseractic fallicies,
In slick and mystic style,
Though the fans won't understand it,
They will all the same demand it,
With a fainly hopeful smile"

So while its safe to TALK about all sorts of things within the text of the
game (and posiblly include a pesky last point puzzle based on them), I
wouldn't recommend making moving on in a game dependant on knowing about
them... naturally if every aspect of a particular problem is covered in the
game then it would be reasonable to allow it (Thus including the big book of
4D space would allow you to use Tesseractic Falicies 8)

Don't antagonise the reader, simply because they don't know something...
that said, I discovered today that my parents didn't know what Schroedingers
Cat was - something I assumed previously everyone would have come across.
Of course, you have to assume players know which compas direction is which
and how to speak English - I think the rules should be as follows

Don't make things depend on cultural knowledge, unless players will all know
about that culture (You are quite safe in the USA because of the huge number
of film exports)

Don't rely on the player having any basic knowledge beyond that taught to
EVERYONE at high school. There is always the potential for a footnotes
system if you want to use it

Give a player ALL the information needed to look something up (thus looking
for someones birthdate is OK, looking for a composer given a birthdate
is a lot more difficult)

Steven Howard

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Jul 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/20/96
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In <fba_960...@saluton.iaf.nl>, wieb...@saluton.iaf.nl (Kees Wiebering) writes:
>I really wouldn't know. I have never checked the way bombs and such are made
>in the stories I've read. I myself would never write something dangerous that
>was exactly true: like a semtex-bomb or an recipe for XTC.

There is a recipe here.

>read recipe

"Recipe for XTC:

1 Andy Partridge
1 Colin Moulding
1 Barry Andrews (may substitute Dave Gregory)
1 drummer (optional)"

========
Steven Howard
bl...@ibm.net

What's a nice word for "euphemism"?

Russell L. Bryan

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Jul 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/22/96
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Ben Chalmers wrote:

> Don't antagonise the reader, simply because they don't know something...
> that said, I discovered today that my parents didn't know what Schroedingers
> Cat was - something I assumed previously everyone would have come across.

I would say that you need more exposure to people, but it would only depress you.
Ask a series of ten complete strangers if they can describe the concept behind
Schroedinger's Cat and I would be shocked if more than three people could even give
you a vague answer.

Actually, I consider Schroedinger to be advanced knowledge when speaking
populationally. Rather like discussing the (59?) stellations of an icosahedron (or
is THAT common knowledge? I just discovered it the other day). Incidentally, is it
a hecatohedron or a hectohedron? I was leaning towards hecato-.

When you really consider it, everyone has a little knowledge about something. The
guy who can't tell you about hypothetical cats and hyperextended polyhedrons might be
able to do that $400 brake job for $50. Or she might be able to teach you a thing or
two about Russian literature.

With this in mind, you're going to kill yourself if you overthink it. You can never
assume knowledge on anyone's part. If you really want to be fair, choose your
puzzles like problems on an IQ test, where specific knowledge is unnecessary, but
problem solving is tatamount.

Knowledge puzzles tend to cease being puzzles, as knowledge represents puzzles that
have already been solved. The exception to this would be puzzles that teach, such as
the Enigma machine from Jigsaw. Puzzles that teach have a value all their own.

-- Russ

Ben Chalmers

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Jul 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/22/96
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In article <31F36E...@earthlink.net>

"Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> Ben Chalmers wrote:
>
> > Don't antagonise the reader, simply because they don't know something...
> > that said, I discovered today that my parents didn't know what Schroedingers
> > Cat was - something I assumed previously everyone would have come across.
>
> I would say that you need more exposure to people, but it would only depress you.
> Ask a series of ten complete strangers if they can describe the concept behind
> Schroedinger's Cat and I would be shocked if more than three people could even give
> you a vague answer.

> When you really consider it, everyone has a little knowledge about something. The

> guy who can't tell you about hypothetical cats and hyperextended polyhedrons might be
> able to do that $400 brake job for $50. Or she might be able to teach you a thing or
> two about Russian literature.

Exactly, Common Knowledge is something which is very difficult to assume
people know about. Since literature seems to thrive on alluding to earlier
works, or to science / philosophical matters / religion, one would expect
that if would have to do the same, and given the way current if is based
around puzzles, the puzzles themselves would have to allude to these
subjects. The question remains, what is it fair to use?

Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?

Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

If the answers to these questions differ, why?

Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of Time,
say)?

Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
oxygen relights a glowing splint?

Is it fair to assume the player knows you can light a lantern with a match?

Where do you draw the line?

I think the big question we have to answer is "What or Who is an IF player?"

I assume the general IF player (for what i have written) would have a
reasonable education (high school+?), be quite well read, have been brought
up in the western world, speaks English, is a reasonably competant computer
user. Is this fair? My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite
heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is
this fair to the player? Are the books Illuminatus! Sophies World and Chaos
fair to the reader? - Are they fair to the main characters? Who is the
player in a book, the author or the reader? How do we, as IF writers
overcome this problem?

I hope this stirs up some interesting questions and or answers in your minds

Ben

Matthew Amster-Burton

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Jul 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/22/96
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Ben Chalmers <B...@bench.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
>oxygen relights a glowing splint?

Hey, what game was that? Or was that something I did in eighth grade
science class?

Damn, I must be losing it.

Matthew

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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Amusingly, there *is* a situation like this in Zork Nemesis. (Dealing
with oxygen, hydrogen, and sparks.)

Also amusingly, they got it wrong.

(But the game doesn't really expect you to know the information in
question -- there are hints in the game which tell you what behavior
to expect. Fortunately. Since they got it wrong. :-)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Den of Iniquity

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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Once upon a time Richard Borton expectorated this:

> This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> for a game to:
>
> 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know

> "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to interpretation.

This one seems to be a fairly popular question. People will cite scores of
examples of games which had some reference which only 75% of the players
understood. If in any doubt at all, don't expect it. If you have a
sizeable readme file or manual you could include a mention of the required
knowledge - or you could have a library of books in the game with all the
information needed. Or a good help/hint system...

Or (this is IMHO the best way - not that I've ever seen it done) just
allow the player to stumble through as if the 'self' character in the game
knows what you might not. Thus if you expect everyone to know that (let's
think of an example now... oh yes, here's a good one...) one procedure for
exorcising spirits would involve the use of 'bell, book and candle', you
might expect the player to go fetch these three objects. However if they
don't know that then they might instead try typing KILL SPIRITS or
VANQUISH SPIRITS or EXORCISE DEMONS** (or CONSULT TELEPHONE DIRECTORY
ABOUT PRIESTS). So have a safety net which (for all except the last case)
returns a reply like 'Good idea! But I'll need a bell, book and candle for
that...' or whatever most suits the style of writing you're using.

> 2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
> a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
> handy and useful in a game?

Hmm. Tricky. I personally recommend blurring the details - thus you might
have the protagonist collect all the raw materials and then type 'MAKE
BOMB' without going into too much detail about the actual procedure. Or
get the player to bring all the ingredients to the shady Mr Pyro next door
who will put it together for you. Something that carefully omits one or
two important details. Make the detonator but get the explosive ready-made
from some other source - anything like that. Writing humourous i-f gives
authors much more scope - you could devise silly destructive devices that
would never work in real life. But in more 'realistic' fiction (again,
very much open to interpretation) I hate it when people 'invent' things
that wouldn't work in reality. (I'll omit a list of psuedoscientific
poppycock and save a lot of space). So however dubious it is, I approve of
there being at least some details of some genuine device.

--
Den

** transcript? **

There is a big black round anarchist's bomb here, the fuse is lit and
rapidly approaching the explosive - you must have no more than half a
minute before it goes bang.

> EXORCISE DAEMONS

With a word of power you vanquish all daemons. The whole adventure
suddenly goes quiet and the sparkling fuse becomes still...

*****************

Den of Iniquity

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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On 18 Jul 1996, Jesse McGrew wrote:

> Ross Nicoll (rni...@lostics.thenet.co.uk) wrote:
> : > Remember that Ditch Day Drifter required the player to make an explosive


> : > device that, if he were stupid enough to try it at home, would explode
> : > and kill him instantly. Nobody complained.
> : What was it, nitro glycerine?
>

> Liquid nitrogen in a closed container, I think.

Cool!

[This message reminded to go empty the liquid N2 out of my cold trap]

Actually, the fatality account would depend rather heavily on the
container. We've had a few explosions in the past where liquid N2 got into
confined spaces and nobody's been particularly injured (yet; touch wood) -
just shaken. Furthermore, if you sealed it in a vacuum flask after letting
the temperature equilibriate you might have a couple of minutes to get
out.

One time someone tried filling a rubber glove with liquid nitrogen then
tying it off - but the rubber just freezes and shatters at that
temperature. But solid carbon dioxide is better - it doesn't get that cold
so you get a great inflating glove ;) [Don't try this at home, children.]

Dontcha just love cryogenic substances?

Anyway - what source of liquid nitrogen _do_ you have 'at home'?

--
Den [I know, it's a bit off topic but I'm happier now for having written
it and that's all that matters to me... Post followups to
alt.fetish.rubber.explosions or whatever ;) ]

Staffan Friberg

unread,
Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
to

In article <2d42d...@bench.demon.co.uk>
Ben Chalmers <B...@bench.demon.co.uk> writes:

[...]

> Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?

Yes.

> Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

Yes.

> If the answers to these questions differ, why?

They don't, at least not as far as I'm concerned.

Sometimes I think us non-native english speakers have a better chance of
coping with uncommon words since to us its natural to get a dictionary and
look up what we don't understand.

After all, that's the reason dictionaries exist.

> Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
> fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of Time,
> say)?

If you could elaborate a bit on the phrase "fairly well known", please?

It's a very difficult question but I think that it's safer to assume
familiarity with science than with (say) literature since science is the
same wherever you happen to live.

E.g. water boils at the same temperature (at a given pressure) in
Stockholm, Madison and Ulan Bator.

> Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
> oxygen relights a glowing splint?

I would think so since that is something taught in school at a very early
stage.

> Is it fair to assume the player knows you can light a lantern with a match?

I'd suppose so...

> Where do you draw the line?

That's the big problem, right?

As I have said earlier I think it depends on the subject.

> I think the big question we have to answer is "What or Who is an IF player?"
>
> I assume the general IF player (for what i have written) would have a
> reasonable education (high school+?), be quite well read, have been brought
> up in the western world, speaks English, is a reasonably competant computer
> user. Is this fair? My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite
> heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is
> this fair to the player? Are the books Illuminatus! Sophies World and Chaos
> fair to the reader? - Are they fair to the main characters? Who is the
> player in a book, the author or the reader? How do we, as IF writers
> overcome this problem?

With the InterNet growing at the pace we see today I'm not sure about "the
western world".

Being a reasonably competent computer user is probably a fair assumption if
you by "user" mean one who uses computers without necessarily knowing
anything about how they work.

I don't think that "being quite well read" means very much since you won't
have read the same books if you have been brought up in different
countries.

If I were to write a game heavily based on Harry Martinsson's "Aniara" not
many of you would understand very much. As far as I'm concerned, though,
it's something most (swedish) people should be familiar with.

The main language of interactive ficion is english so I think knowledge of
the language is a fair assumption.

> I hope this stirs up some interesting questions and or answers in your minds

Indeed, indeed.

--

Staffan Friberg (st...@rabbit.augs.se) Sweden
GothCode 2.0:
GoPS+3TJt(NrZ)B4/18Bk!cNRs--PSh(MoSa)V+sM++ZGo(GnNr--)C+2p3pa27-n
-Ob:-H174g+LmEa2+?w+Lr++D--!%H+PR(MoSh)s10k+RNSsYyN0890nLse!HdSp1
"You can trust us as far as we can throw you." - Max

Michael Blaheta

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
to

Quoth Ben Chalmers:

> Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?
> Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

Yes, since the correct answer is just a dictionary lookup away (if that).

> Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
> fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of Time,
> say)?

Not usually. Aside from extremely general physics (i.e. gravity pulls
things downward) any required info should be provided in the game.

> Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
> oxygen relights a glowing splint?

Probably not.

> Is it fair to assume the player knows you can light a lantern with a match?

Probably. (Although, the error message for "LIGHT LANTERN" should then
be "You'll need something else to do that." or the like)

> I assume the general IF player (for what i have written) would have a
> reasonable education (high school+?), be quite well read, have been brought
> up in the western world, speaks English, is a reasonably competant computer
> user. Is this fair? My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite
> heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is
> this fair to the player? Are the books Illuminatus! Sophies World and Chaos
> fair to the reader? - Are they fair to the main characters? Who is the
> player in a book, the author or the reader? How do we, as IF writers
> overcome this problem?

In general, I'd say the answer to _any_ knowledge puzzle should be
discoverable within the game itself. Also, you can't assume much about
the player's knowledge, because some IFers get started young. (I tell
you, the Entrance to Hades puzzle was virtually impossible for me at age
10....)

Don

Nulldogma

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
to

> There is a big black round anarchist's bomb here, the fuse is lit and
> rapidly approaching the explosive - you must have no more than half a
> minute before it goes bang.

> TAKE BLACK BOMB

You don't see any black bomb here.

> X BLACK BOMB

You don't see any black bomb here.

> ASK BIG BLACK ROUND ANARCHIST ABOUT BOMB

"Oh, goodness," says the anarchist. "Thanks for pointing that out.
Could've made a terrible mess." The anarchist extinguishes the fuse, and
waddles off.

---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Matthew Russotto

unread,
Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
to

In article <Pine.SGI.3.91.960723...@tower.york.ac.uk> Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:

}One time someone tried filling a rubber glove with liquid nitrogen then
}tying it off - but the rubber just freezes and shatters at that
}temperature. But solid carbon dioxide is better - it doesn't get that cold
}so you get a great inflating glove ;) [Don't try this at home, children.]
}
}Dontcha just love cryogenic substances?
}
}Anyway - what source of liquid nitrogen _do_ you have 'at home'?

Ditch Day Drifter was set at a university, you could
just go over to the physics department. (I don't remember exactly where you
did get it in that game, though)


Glenn P.,

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
to

On Tue., 23-Jul-1996, Den of Iniquity wrote:

> One time someone tried filling a rubber glove with liquid nitrogen then

> tying it off -- but the rubber just freezes and shatters at that temperature.
> But solid carbon dioxide is better -- it doesn't get that cold so you get a


> great inflating glove ;) [Don't try this at home, children.]

I realize this is off topic, but I read somewhere that if you freeze a can of,
shaving cream or whipped cream in liquid nitrogen, and then cut away the can,
you can leave the frozen, compressed product to thaw and it will expand to fill
a volume about 2/3ds that of the average automobile!!! Haven't confirmed this,
however (and I have neither the MEANS, nor the DESIRE, to do so...).

--_____
{~._.~} "There are a hundred ways in which a boy can injure -- if not
_( Y )_ not indeed kill -- himself. The more advennturous he is and the
(:_~*~_:) greater his initiative, the more ways he will find. If you protect
(_)-(_) him from each of the hundred, he is sure to find the hundred-and-
========= first. Though most men can look back on their boyhood and tremble
========= at the narrowness of some of their escapes, most boys do in fact
W.T.P. survive, more or less intact, and the wise father is the trusting
========= father."
=====================================
:: --= Glenn P. =-- :: --"The Enchanted Places", Chapter 21,
:: c128...@GTI.Net :: By: Christopher Robin Milne.


Laurel Halbany

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
to

Wetw...@gnn.com (Richard Borton) wrote:

>This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
>for a game to:
>1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
>"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to

>interprutation.

....which is the problem. I would at least make sure that the 'common
knowledge' is commonly *available*. For example, you might expect the
order of the planets to be 'common knowledge,' but somebody who
doesn't know that can find it out pretty darn easily.

>2. Run the risk of teaching (via the game) some one how to develop
>a destructive device. Such as having the makings of a pipe bomb
>handy and useful in a game?

I wouldn't assume that making a pipe bomb is 'common knowledge.'
(Remember that it is, or at least should be, 'common knowledge' that
trying to make a pipe bomb can be real dangerous.)

David Kinder

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
to

Jesse McGrew (Jmc...@cris.com) wrote:

: Liquid nitrogen in a closed container, I think.

Ah yes, great stuff. Some people here used to try this sort of trick.
Apparently the best stunt is to fill a strong plastic bottle with N2,
tie a brick to it, throw it in a river and wait - sort of a home-made
depth charge. Another hobby they had was seeing how high you could
propel a tennis ball. We've still got the launch tube, which is
essentially a long vertical pipe sealed at the base. You put the
closed bottle full of N2 in it, then a tennis ball, then you run away.

Still, that's nothing to the good old days of physics, when people
regularly used liquid hydrogen.

David (who seems to have wandered off topic)


Matthew Amster-Burton

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
to

"Glenn P.," <c128...@GTI.Net> wrote:

>I realize this is off topic, but I read somewhere that if you freeze a can of,
>shaving cream or whipped cream in liquid nitrogen, and then cut away the can,
>you can leave the frozen, compressed product to thaw and it will expand to fill
>a volume about 2/3ds that of the average automobile!!! Haven't confirmed this,
>however (and I have neither the MEANS, nor the DESIRE, to do so...).

You DON'T have the DESIRE to do this? Why the hell not?

However, isn't the product expanded by a blowing agent as it escapes
the can, thereby providing the requisite puffiness? My guess is that
the contents wouldn't mix properly if you just cut the can open and
let it fly.

I hope this is giving puzzle ideas to someone, though. Hey, I might
put car-sized expanding whipped cream in my game....

Matthew

Matthew Daly

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
to

In article <31F36E...@earthlink.net> russ...@earthlink.net writes:
>
>Ask a series of ten complete strangers if they can describe the concept
>behind Schroedinger's Cat and I would be shocked if more than three people
>could even give you a vague answer.

But, if I found a cat with a collar that said "If found, return to
Schroedinger -- reward offered -- dead or alive or whatever" then I
might be drawn to look up S. in the encyclopedia if I didn't understand
the reference. This might involve, to some degree, a note in the
"about" section to the effect that the game contains historical
references that can be learned about through a decent encyclopedia.
(in opposition to, say, a game containing references which require
knowing about 18th century English poets or the last few issues of
The Sandman comic book or DJ Grand Funk's latest album)

The person who said that the key was a good help/hint section to
guide anyone who didn't want to be bothered is right on the money.
Check out the Latin references in Jigsaw for a good example.

-Matthew


--
Matthew Daly I don't buy everything I read ... I haven't
da...@ppd.kodak.com even read everything I've bought.

My opinions are not necessarily those of my employer, of course.

Glenn P.,

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Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
to

On Mon., 22-Jul-1996, Ben Chalmers wrote:

> Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?
> Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

> If the answers to these questions differ, why?

In the order asked, no, yes, and because a lantern is a fairly commonplace
object that most people have encountered at some time or another in their
lives, and would have some knowledge of; whereas I doubt most people here
have even HEARD the word "Demijohn" before in their lives! (Including me.)


> Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
> fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of
> Time, say)?

That, in my opinion, would be a very hazardous assumption. Not everyone is
that well read; and even if they are, they may not be much *interested* in
physics, and therefore have paid little attention to it...


> Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
> oxygen relights a glowing splint?

Again, I wouldn't make that assumption. It will *probably* be a *correct*
assumption most of the time, but even those with good high-school educations
may have forgotten much of what they learned by the time they play your game!
Leaving an old high-school chemistry textbook lying around in one of your
game locations may help... ;)


> Is it fair to assume the player knows you can light a lantern with a match?

Probably... although you do really need to drop a clue, because SOME lanterns
(Hey, Zork fans!) are battery-powered! An appropriate clue would be to mention
a wick, and oil sloshing around inside, when the lantern was "EXAMINED" by the
player...


> My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite heavilly on quantum
> physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is this fair to the
> player?

To the *RIGHT* player, it is fair. Everyone else -- and I'm afraid that will
mean most people -- will be left out in the cold. What WOULD be fair is to
disclose, in the description of the game that accompanies it, that a degree
of knowledge in certain areas will be required for effective play. There is
nothing inherently wrong with having a "specialized" audience; but you need to
be sure your game is carefully targeted. Otherwise you will have a LOT of VERY
annoyed people on your hands! The fact is, what you are describing is a game
that leans heavily upon some very *spcialized* knowledge; and that -- I'm
sorry -- is NOT fair to an *average* person, who *cannot* be expected to know
all that. Again, there is nothing inherently WRONG with this -- it simply
means that you must take great pains to target your game to a specific
audience.

But then, you didn't *really* need someone to tell you that, now did you?
Surely, the very fact that you are asking the question "Is it fair?" shows
that you suspected all of this already!

Hope this helps...

Staffan Friberg

unread,
Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.93.960725...@apollo.gti.net>
"Glenn P.," <c128...@GTI.Net> writes:

> In the order asked, no, yes, and because a lantern is a fairly commonplace
> object that most people have encountered at some time or another in their
> lives, and would have some knowledge of; whereas I doubt most people here
> have even HEARD the word "Demijohn" before in their lives! (Including me.)

That's simply not true everywhere.

If you came here and started to ask around you'd probably be surprised at
the result. Making wine is a popular hobby in Sweden.

I think we need to think a bit more on a global scale here.

> Again, I wouldn't make that assumption. It will *probably* be a *correct*
> assumption most of the time, but even those with good high-school educations
> may have forgotten much of what they learned by the time they play your game!
> Leaving an old high-school chemistry textbook lying around in one of your
> game locations may help... ;)

On the other hand you can't assume that the player is a stupid fool either.
You'd probably alienate more people that way. If there is something they
don't understand most people will try to look for the information they
need. If it's fairly easily obtainable you should be all right.

John Wood

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Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
to

myt...@agora.rdrop.com (Laurel Halbany) writes:
>
> Wetw...@gnn.com (Richard Borton) wrote:
>
> >This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> >for a game to:
> >1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> >"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> >interprutation.
>
> ....which is the problem. I would at least make sure that the 'common
> knowledge' is commonly *available*. For example, you might expect the
> order of the planets to be 'common knowledge,' but somebody who
> doesn't know that can find it out pretty darn easily.

...so long as you're not worried about which way round Neptune and
Pluto get listed.

"Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest."

On the original question, my vote goes for sticking to commonly
available knowledge too. The main problem is spotting the things that
seem blindingly obvious to the author but are in fact specialist
knowledge (I am sure demijohns fall into this category, though a
dictionary should sort that out). One thing that should help is a
variety of playtesters from different countries.

John


Mark Clements

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Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
to

On Mon., 22-Jul-1996, Ben Chalmers wrote:

> Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?
> Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

> If the answers to these questions differ, why?

As I see it, you can include absolutely anything in an adventure
game, from a hat to a pair of shashfaps (slippers in English) and
it doesn't matter whether a) the player knows what it is or even
b) that it even exists.

Of course there is a proviso. As long as you include a description
of it in the games text which is easily reachable, there should
be no problem:

+++++++++++
You are standing in an old workshop. In the corner lies
a rusty old Buick, which obviously hasn't been used in years.
There is an awl resting on the workbench.

>EXAMINE BUICK

This old car is way past it's prime. In fact, it can only
really be called a car by it's appearance. It's function
is that of scrap metal.

>EXAMINE AWL

You see nothing special.
+++++++++++

The first of these responses is good, in that it informs the player
of the exact nature of a Buick - that it is a car, without being
intrusive to the scene, or requiring much effort to find.

The second response (which I think is in HitchHiker's) does not
give any further information, and so is not really 'fair'.
Maybe a response such as 'You can tell by the wearing of the
handle that this is a well loved, and well used tool. The spike
has been blunted through many years of being pushed through leather,
but you suspect that it is sharp enough to make a hole in a softer
material.'

It's all a matter of how you describe it, and what information
you care to give.

--
___ ,';_,-,__
He's a man, with a plan, /~_ ,',' |O|,:,\,
And a counterfeit dollar in his hand, / /,',' /--|_|-;:;|
He's Mr... ( )',_) ) ):;)
>\,(__ / /:;;|
.............................Mark.Clements....//~ /:;:;:\

Laurel Halbany

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
to

Ben Chalmers <B...@bench.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?

>Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?

>If the answers to these questions differ, why?

This is a good example of easily *accessible* knowledge, whether or
not it is *common* knowledge. If the only need to know what a
'demijohn' is, is for the description, then having a dictionary
suffices.

>Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
>fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of Time,
>say)?

That's not exactly an easily-accessible, readily-handy kind of
reference work.

>I think the big question we have to answer is "What or Who is an IF player?"

The answer to that question is not "Somebody who has the same
knowledge base and decisions about what is important that I do, no
more, no less."

>I assume the general IF player (for what i have written) would have a
>reasonable education (high school+?), be quite well read, have been brought
>up in the western world, speaks English, is a reasonably competant computer

>user. Is this fair? My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite


>heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is

>this fair to the player? Are the books Illuminatus! Sophies World and Chaos
>fair to the reader? - Are they fair to the main characters? Who is the
>player in a book, the author or the reader? How do we, as IF writers
>overcome this problem?

Is it fair? It is if your game is targeted at people with knowledge
of/interest in quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of
philosophy.

Would it be fair for me to have a diaper-changing problem in a game?
Maybe, since a lot of my audience probably understands diaper
changing. But it wouldn't be *reasonable* for me to assume that
*everybody* knows this, or that people who don't are ignorant twits
not worth consideration.

Matteo Vaccari

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
to

Matthew Russotto (russ...@ariel.ct.picker.com) wrote:
: In article <Pine.SGI.3.91.960723...@tower.york.ac.uk> Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:

: }One time someone tried filling a rubber glove with liquid nitrogen then
: }tying it off - but the rubber just freezes and shatters at that
: }temperature. But solid carbon dioxide is better - it doesn't get that cold


: }so you get a great inflating glove ;) [Don't try this at home, children.]

: }
: }Dontcha just love cryogenic substances?


: }
: }Anyway - what source of liquid nitrogen _do_ you have 'at home'?

: Ditch Day Drifter was set at a university, you could
: just go over to the physics department. (I don't remember exactly where you
: did get it in that game, though)

A chap I know is a veterinarian, and used to do artificial
insemination of cows as a freelance job (no joke!) As a consequence,
he had his liquid nitrogen cylinder in his cellar that kept his bull
sperm frozen.

How's that for an IF location: the vet's cellar?

Matteo


Mark Clements

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
to

In article <4taga0$a...@pluto.sm.dsi.unimi.it>
matteo@I_should_put_my_domain_in_etc_NNTP_INEWS_DOMAIN
"Matteo Vaccari" writes:

> Well, speaking as a reader of both I- and non-I-fiction, I don't mind
> being exposed to things I don't know when I read something. Quite the
> opposite: I tend to look for works about things I don't know. It's a
> good thing when something I read teaches me something; or at least
> stirs up enough interest for me to look things up in an encyclopedia.

One of the most enjoyable games I played, was Sierra's Conquests of
Camelot. I bought the game from a car boot sale, and it wasn't until
I was playing that I realised the manual (and hence the copy protection)
was missing. However this made the game for me.
The copy protection was, in the main, based around actual facts
(or myths). Hence I spent many an hour looking through encyclopedias,
books on fables and so on, brushing up on my greek knowledge and
so on, and as well as learning stuff, I got totally engrossed in
the game and the setting. Not many games do this for me (although
it was let down by the 'arcade' sequences. Especially at the speed
my machine ran at!)

I'm not suggesting that this would work with any other game, or with
anyone else, but it shows it needn't be an obstacle. (Actually, I
think the fact that I knew it was in the manual made it more of a
challenge. If I hadn't, I may well have given up if I couldn't find
the info in the game).

--
"There are so many psychos in the ___ ,';_,-,__
States that psychoanalysis is, pradoxically, /~_ ,',' |O|,:,\,
the only profession that never shrinks." / /,',' /--|_|-;:;|
- Victor Lewis-Smith ( )',_) ) ):;)

Matteo Vaccari

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
to

Ben Chalmers (B...@bench.demon.co.uk) wrote:

: Is this fair? My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite


: heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is
: this fair to the player? Are the books Illuminatus! Sophies World and Chaos
: fair to the reader? - Are they fair to the main characters? Who is the
: player in a book, the author or the reader? How do we, as IF writers
: overcome this problem?

Well, speaking as a reader of both I- and non-I-fiction, I don't mind


being exposed to things I don't know when I read something. Quite the
opposite: I tend to look for works about things I don't know. It's a
good thing when something I read teaches me something; or at least
stirs up enough interest for me to look things up in an encyclopedia.

So my answer is: please add references to interesting things. Don't
make your works dull by taking away any mention of little-known
things. Of course, it'd be preferable to be able to solve the puzzles
by using information that is found somewhere in the game. But I
wouldn't mind to have to look up, say, an encyclopedia article in
order to solve a problem. Just don't make it so that you have to read
a few books!

A good model could be Umberto Eco's novels: they contain enough
literature and history material to allow an ineducated reader to
appreciate the story. At the expense of being on the boring and
patronizing side, IMO. But it could work out better in an IF context.
Say the IF author makes up reference works that the player may consult
in order to arrive at a solution. When the player is unable to solve
a problem, coming across a paper about the subject would be a really
welcome surprise, and it would be read carefully in order to find the
necessary clues. Most IF works contain some sort of reference works
about the game world: say, the various books in Christminster. It
wouldn't be such a difference to program "books" about real-world
things.

: I hope this stirs up some interesting questions and or answers in your minds

: Ben

: --
: Name :Ben Chalmers.
: Email:b...@bench.demon.co.uk
: csap PROTO-FAQ: csa...@bench.demon.co.uk

:


Matteo


bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
to

In article <2d42d...@bench.demon.co.uk>, Ben Chalmers <B...@bench.demon.co.uk> writes:
>In article <31F36E...@earthlink.net>

>subjects. The question remains, what is it fair to use?
>
>Is it fair to ask the player to know what a Demijohn is?
>
>Is if fair to ask the player to know what a lantern is?
>
>If the answers to these questions differ, why?

Hmm - both of these nouns can be found in a reasonably sized dictionary - I
don't believe it's unfair to use them. In conventional fiction, there are often
words which you might not have encountered before - no-one's vocabulary is the
same as anyone else's. Often context is sufficient to determine meaning
(indeed, that's probably how most new words we encounter are assimulated), and
then in IF there is usually an accompanying physical descriptions of objects to
'fill in' any necessary details.

IMO nouns aren't a problem. Lovecraft is an interesting writer at the very
least because chances are he'll use a word you've never heard of before (which
I believe contributes to the alieness of his work). Concepts are much more
difficult to 'rule' on.


>Is it fair to require a player to have a knowledge of what you consider
>fairly well known physics (nothing you can't find from Brief History of Time,
>say)?
>

>Is it fair to assume a player knows that Hydrogen burns with a pop, and
>oxygen relights a glowing splint?
>

>Is it fair to assume the player knows you can light a lantern with a match?
>

>Where do you draw the line?

Obviously there is no easy answer to this question. I think it's up to the
author how much background in the subject matter is needed. I'm reminded of
Starcross, with its initial 'solar system' puzzle and its molecule puzzle -
both required prior knowledge (in a little depth in the latter case) but both
puzzles were in keeping with the genre of _science_ fiction.

Just as I don't think a writer should tailor their work to the expectations of
the lowest common denominator (can you imagine Eco writing a linear
narrative?), I don't believe IF should be limited to some arbitrary set of
'common knowledge'. A writer should have some idea of who they are writing for
(even if it's only themselves) and should aim consistently for that group. If
folks outside that demographic wander in and possibly pick something up, so
much the better.

The 'Mind Electric' game is a good example of this. There is a very definite
mindset behind the game and its puzzles, which some people would have extreme
difficulty latching on to. However, it is consistent in its style of puzzle
from start to finish, and emerges a stronger work as a result, though without
much potential for widespread appeal.


>I think the big question we have to answer is "What or Who is an IF player?"

This would be true if you were trying to please as many people as possible with
your work. While this aim is admirable, it's also impossible to succeed at
100%, and will limit your creation in certain ways.

As far as writing goes I think "Who is my writing aimed at?" is a better
question. Not every game will be suitable for children, and not every
'naturalist, survivalist' tale will appeal to SF lovers ;).


>I assume the general IF player (for what i have written) would have a
>reasonable education (high school+?), be quite well read, have been brought
>up in the western world, speaks English, is a reasonably competant computer
>user. Is this fair?

Yup, that's me all over :)


My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite
>heavilly on quantum physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is
>this fair to the player?

Obviously these are very wide topics. If the game maintains its internal
consistency I believe it is fair, regardless of how many, or how few,
'signposts and cyclopedias' exist in the text to point players along the right
road. In _So Far_, once you had a solution, you knew why it had worked, even if
you didn't fully grok the situation you were in. That's the kind of consistency
I mean.

-Giles


Ben Chalmers

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Jul 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/27/96
to

In article <860020...@elvw.demon.co.uk>
John Wood <jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> myt...@agora.rdrop.com (Laurel Halbany) writes:
> >
> > Wetw...@gnn.com (Richard Borton) wrote:
> >
> > >This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> > >for a game to:
> > >1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> > >"common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> > >interprutation.
> >
> > ....which is the problem. I would at least make sure that the 'common
> > knowledge' is commonly *available*. For example, you might expect the
> > order of the planets to be 'common knowledge,' but somebody who
> > doesn't know that can find it out pretty darn easily.
>
> ...so long as you're not worried about which way round Neptune and
> Pluto get listed.
>
> "Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest."

^^^^^^^^^^^^?

Of course, my game would be more like

"Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"

A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
you the reader? 8)

Michael Blaheta

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Jul 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/28/96
to

Quoth Ben Chalmers:

> In article <860020...@elvw.demon.co.uk>
> John Wood <jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> > ...so long as you're not worried about which way round Neptune and
> > Pluto get listed.

Hm... I believe that Pluto's closer at the moment, but not for too
much longer.

> > "Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest."
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^?

Terra, I should think.

> Of course, my game would be more like
>
> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"
>
> A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
> you the reader? 8)

Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
entirely?

Don

mathew

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Jul 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/28/96
to

Kvan <kv...@diku.dk> wrote:

> On Mon, 15 Jul 1996, Richard Borton wrote:
> > This is one of those "Give me your opinion" questions. Is it right
> > for a game to:
> > 1. Require/expect a certain amount of common knowledge? I know
> > "common" is a bad choice of wording and wide open to
> > interprutation.
>
> If it isn't too hard to look up somewhere, I guess. Of course, you ALWAYS
> have to draw the line somewhere. I think it's worth trying to keep a game
> accessible for as wide a range of persons as possible.

Well, I remember playing "Pimania", which relied on your doing quite a
lot of research to find the golden sundial.

For instance, the Spectrum version of the game at one point played a
tune with the notes C, A, G, G. If you power on a Spectrum and type
CAGG, you get CONT NEW GOTO GOTO. If you look up the internal codes for
those BASIC keywords in a Spectrum manual, you get four three-digit
numbers which make up a six-digit OS map grid reference. No, I'm not
kidding.

The clue for the date was even more fiendish. I forget the exact
details, but as I recall it involved a reference to a particular event
-- which occurred in a year which, for obscure reasons, had one more day
than you'd expect. And maybe there was Julian/Gregorian calendar
conversion or something. Anyway...

Combining the grid reference with the shape of the map led you to the
Vale of the White Horse in Uffington. Reading up about Uffington would
lead you to a stone sundial in the middle of a field. Turning up at the
sundial at noon on the right day would win you the Golden Sundial of Pi.

The annoying thing is that I solved it along with two friends, but when
we arrived there we couldn't find the precise location because we didn't
know about the sundial. Someone else won.

Of course, this was a special kind of adventure, in that they wanted it
to be ridiculously hard to solve.

The point, anyway, was that I rather enjoyed having to trawl libraries
for historical information, dig out maps and look up grid references,
and so on. I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I'd quite like more
IF to involve real world research.

It's probably fair if:
1. It's clear to the player that there's some additional real-world
knowledge needed, and
2. The information is reasonably available -- say, it can be found in
any reasonably good single-volume encyclopedia.


mathew
--
http://www.pobox.com/~meta/

Admiral Jota

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Jul 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/29/96
to

mbla...@flood.xnet.com (Michael Blaheta) writes:
>Quoth Ben Chalmers:

>> Of course, my game would be more like

>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"

>> A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
>> you the reader? 8)

>Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
>entirely?

Or perhaps are they three somethings?

--
/<-= -=-=- -= Admiral Jota =- -=-=- =->\
__/><-=- http://www.tiac.net/users/jota/ =-><\__
\><-= jo...@mv.mv.com -- Finger for PGP =-></
\<-=- -= -=- -= -==- =- -=- =- -=->/

Trevor Barrie

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Jul 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/29/96
to

jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral Jota) wrote:

>>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"

>>Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
>>entirely?

>Or perhaps are they three somethings?

Probably three... the small "a" presumably stands for the asteroid
belt, so it seems reasonable that the small "o" is for the Oort cloud.
The "G" might just be "Galaxy", then... but what's between Pluto and
the Oort cloud that starts with "M"?


Carl Muckenhoupt

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Jul 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/29/96
to

mbla...@flood.xnet.com (Michael Blaheta) writes:

>Quoth Ben Chalmers:

>> Of course, my game would be more like
>>

>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"
>>

>> A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
>> you the reader? 8)

>Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
>entirely?

The above quotation comes from an old Robert Anton Wilson novel. An
iconoclastic astronomer discovers two more planets and, taking a cue from
Pluto, names them Mickey and Goofy.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

Greg Ewing

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Jul 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/29/96
to

On Mon., 22-Jul-1996, Ben Chalmers wrote:
>
> My current (very much work in progress) game draws quite heavilly on quantum
> physics, the occult, and various forms of philosophy. Is this fair to the
> player?

If you rely on the player having any prior knowledge of
*real* quantum physics, I expect at least 99.9% of people
in general would be at a total loss. Such would only be
appropriate for an audience consisting entirely of
university physics majors.

However, there's nothing wrong with having the game
teach the player the necessary ideas, vocabulary or
whatever as it progresses.

The occult isn't a well-defined subject, so it's hard
to even say what constitutes "knowledge" in this area.
Drawing on popular folklore is fine, and is a good way
to establish atmosphere, but don't make anything hinge
crucially on the player happening to know some specific
piece of mythology.

As for philosophy, much the same comments apply :-)

Greg

Richard G Clegg

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Jul 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/30/96
to

Quoth Ben Chalmers:

>> Of course, my game would be more like
>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"
>> A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
>> you the reader? 8)

: >Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
: >entirely?

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Urnaus, Neptune, Pluto,
Mickey and Goofy. Hope this helps.
(Fnord)

--
Richard G. Clegg There ain't no getting round getting round
Dept. of Mathematics (Network Control group) Uni. of York.
email: ric...@manor.york.ac.uk Eschew Obfustication
www: http://manor.york.ac.uk/top.html


Paul Trauth

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Jul 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/30/96
to

Trevor Barrie (tba...@cycor.ca) wrote:
: jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral Jota) wrote:
:
: >>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"
:
: >>Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
: >>entirely?
:
: >Or perhaps are they three somethings?

:
: Probably three... the small "a" presumably stands for the asteroid
: belt, so it seems reasonable that the small "o" is for the Oort cloud.
: The "G" might just be "Galaxy", then... but what's between Pluto and
: the Oort cloud that starts with "M"?

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune,
Pluto, Mickey, Donald.

Fnord.

--
"But I don't want no tea. It gives me a headache." - Pete Puma
paul trauth: cartoonist, animator, programmer, raccoon. rac...@interline.net


Ben Chalmers

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Jul 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/30/96
to

In article <4tl4hl$s...@netty.york.ac.uk>

rg...@york.ac.uk (Richard G Clegg) wrote:

> Quoth Ben Chalmers:
>
> >> Of course, my game would be more like

> >> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"

> >> A good clue to some of the games subject matter, but how fair a clue is it to
> >> you the reader? 8)
>

> : >Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
> : >entirely?
>

> Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Urnaus, Neptune, Pluto,
> Mickey and Goofy. Hope this helps.
> (Fnord)

Ah well, at least one reader of rai-f will be able to play the game

(no, I don't know what the o stood for either)

--
Name :Ben Chalmers. The Anti-Hedgehog(tm) Taking hedgehogs away
Email:b...@bench.demon.co.uk from the common folk
csap PROTO-FAQ: csa...@bench.demon.co.uk since 1996

Laurel Halbany

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Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
to

Mark Clements <Ma...@mabsy.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>The second response (which I think is in HitchHiker's) does not
>give any further information, and so is not really 'fair'.
>Maybe a response such as 'You can tell by the wearing of the
>handle that this is a well loved, and well used tool. The spike
>has been blunted through many years of being pushed through leather,
>but you suspect that it is sharp enough to make a hole in a softer
>material.'

I don't see it as 'unfair,' since 'awl' is a standard English word and
the player can look it up in a dictionary.

Laurel Halbany

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Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
to

John Wood <jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>On the original question, my vote goes for sticking to commonly
>available knowledge too. The main problem is spotting the things that
>seem blindingly obvious to the author but are in fact specialist
>knowledge (I am sure demijohns fall into this category, though a
>dictionary should sort that out). One thing that should help is a
>variety of playtesters from different countries.

...and with different backgrounds; it's possible that a fellow C
programmer in Oslo will share one's knowledge, while your boyfriend
the child-care worker won't have a clue. (Or vice versa.)


Michelle Dube

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Aug 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/11/96
to

rac...@interline.net (Paul Trauth) wrote:

>Trevor Barrie (tba...@cycor.ca) wrote:
>: jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral Jota) wrote:
>:

>: >>> "Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts, Mayonnaise or Glue"
>:

>: >>Are those last two satellites, undiscovered planets, or something else
>: >>entirely?

>:
>: >Or perhaps are they three somethings?
>:
>: Probably three... the small "a" presumably stands for the asteroid
>: belt, so it seems reasonable that the small "o" is for the Oort cloud.
>: The "G" might just be "Galaxy", then... but what's between Pluto and
>: the Oort cloud that starts with "M"?

>Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune,
>Pluto, Mickey, Donald.

>Fnord.

>--
> "But I don't want no tea. It gives me a headache." - Pete Puma
>paul trauth: cartoonist, animator, programmer, raccoon. rac...@interline.net

How about: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,
Neptune,Pluto: Milky way Galaxy

Just a thought
Chelle
chell...@earthlink.net


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